It’s been five years since the disastrous Camp Fire. Hard to believe, and hard to believe that it happened. The word “disaster” comes from the Latin for being out of alignment with the stars (dis = away from, astro = star), and Paradise, Magalia, Concow, Butte Creek Canyon and the surrounding mountain communities certainly were that day.
But before the stars even came out the night of Nov. 8, hundreds of local stars sprang into action. Some provided food, some provided a bed, some a tent or RV or space to put it on. I know people who opened their homes to total strangers—and not just for a few nights. For months.
Some, like those who became the Camp Fire Restoration Project, took immediate action to save the creeks from toxic runoff. Some rescued animals. Some provided a compassionate shoulder to cry on and resources to begin the long process of healing. Camp Fire Collaborative, known as the Camp Fire Long-Term Recovery Group back then, met every Friday at St. John’s Episcopal Hall on in Chico to coordinate recovery efforts at every level, from FEMA on down, and included a whole spectrum of nonprofits, churches and other groups. Some provided disaster case managers who offered help and guidance to individuals and families reeling from their losses. Many of these folks, including the Camp Fire Collaborative, are still meeting regularly to continue this work.
All of them stars.
This amazing community has never shone more brightly than it did in the wake of the Camp Fire disaster. We really showed what we were made of. And as a survivor who lost her home and nearly everything she owned, I want to say, thank you, and as the Na’vi in Avatar says, I see you.
In the film Starman, the eponymous extraterrestrial says, “Humans are at their best when things are at their worst.” Five years ago, you humans of Chico and beyond showed us your luminous best, and you continue to show up to shine your light. You’re all rock stars.
Susan Dobra is a Camp Fire survivor and retired Chico State educator who serves on the boards of several nonprofits involved in the recovery, including Regenerating Paradise, for which she is the current coordinator.